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Sample Essay on News

Despite the majority feeling that the news is not bias and belongs to a noble and revered institution, the news does embed false ideologies, stereotypes and values that are used to shape societies world views. Living in a consumer driven society, the news does not present the consumer with reality, only a certain perception of it and tells what the reader wishes to hear about the worlds events. In recent events the news has come across as an honest institution that just presents the news. However, a closer look at these stories reveals more than meets the eye.

Governor-General Crisis
Throughout the last few weeks the media has been focusing on a variety of topics. The most prominent of these is the sexual assault allegations put forward by Miss. Jarmyn against Dr. Peter Hollingworth. There has been substantial coverage in The Courier, News-Mail, Radio National, Hitz FM Radio and many more sources about the rape allegations. Different uses of discourse and factual discrepancies were present in a large number of articles.

The Herald Sun articles headline “I DID NOT RAPE HER” (Herald Sun, 9th May, 2003) and “I did not know her, I did not rape her” (Saturday Daily Telegraph, 10th May, 2003) both positions the reader to identify and relate to the author because of the use of first person. Also, the use of repetition affects the way the reader will accept or reject the article. From both of these points, the two news articles seem to support Dr.Hollingworth’s call for justice.

However, a closer look at the sub-heading of the previous sources reads; “Governor General forced to address nation.”(Saturday Daily Telegraph, 10th May, 2003) clearly positions the reader to believe that the Governor General was pushed into defence of the accusations against him. The photo of him also depicts an old, frail and scared man with a painful expression. (Herald Sun, Friday 9th May, 2003)

The Weekend Australian’s stance on the issue was clearly depicted in an obvious but brief cartoon, centred in one of their articles. Showing Dr.Hollingworth hanging from a tree being held there by a group of angry citizens. (Weekend Australian, 20th May, 2003) This positions the audience to believe that the Governor General is just “waiting to die”, analogous to resigning.

Alternatively, The News-Mail presents the case as a form public humiliation with discourse such as “G-G attacks called modern crucifixion” (News-Mail, 9th May, 2003) and “G-G criticised” (Guardian Weekly, 9th May, 2003). In doing this, the media presents a sympathetic view of the rape allegations and evokes sympathy from the reader and those supporting the Governor General’s cause.

The Channel 7 News story was significantly different to all the other news features. Channel 7 put forward a compassionate point of view at the start of the feature but then moves on to announce apparent successors of the Governor-General without any evidence. The news transcript is as follows for that particular section:
The allegation has already sparked speculation about possible successors:
“You should not be asking me these questions. You should be ashamed of yourselves
Defence Force Chief, Lt. Gen Peter Cosgrove,
“Absolutely no-comment on that issue and that is as far was we will read into that”
Tim Fischer, Former Deputy Prime Minister,
But in the gulf the prime minister is saying nothing. (Channel 7 News, Friday 9th May, 2003. 6.30pm). This is blatantly a lie or a misleading statement regarding the facts of Dr.Hollingworths removal.

There is also a major factual discrepancy that is noticed between the News stories. “It has been revealed that he was told of the rape claims against Peter Hollingworth 6 months ago.” (National Nine News, Friday 9th May, 2003) and “It’s been revealed that the Prime Minister knew of the accusations 5 months ago.” (Channel 7 News, Friday 9th May, 2003). It is clear that the news has fallen into one of two categories, opinion and truth, but it is still unclear for how long the case has been evident.

From the graph above it is clear that the Courier Mail has placed more emphasis on the issue. Even though the Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph had substantial amounts of information on the issue the Courier Mail had by far the most. The reason for this is due to the differing interests that each media sources are aimed at.

Saudi Arabia Bombings
The bombings in Saudi ArabiaТs capital, Riyadh, has also gained significant coverage through many media sources. It is through this extensive coverage that a wide variety of factual discrepancies and unusual and sometimes unnecessary uses of discourse can be present.

The Hindu’s headline “3 killed in suspected Al-Qaeda suicide attacks (www.thehindu.com, May 13, 2003) and Riyadh Daily “Bombs Rip Western Compounds in Riyadh” (www.riyadhdaily.com, May 13th 2003) clearly positions the reader to believe that the recent bombings were clearly terrorist attacks.

However, The Arab News headline states “20 Die in Riyadh Suicide Attack”(www.arabnews.com, May 13th 2003) and The Channel News Asia headline states how many were killed and how many were wounded. УSuicide car bombs in Saudi Capital kill at least three, wound 50”
(http://www.channelnewsasia.com, May 13th, 2003) tend, to imply that it was a suicide attack rather than a direct attack from a terrorist network

The Indian Express’s use of discourse in “Osama Bin Laden crew remain active and potent” (www.theindiantimes.com, May 13th 2003) and The Hindu “Powell said that the attacks bore all the signs of Osama Bin Laden al-Qaeda network” (www.thehindu.com, May 13th 2003) position the audience to believe that the prime culprit of the attack was Osama Bin Laden and his crew, as the Indian Express demonstrates.

Furthermore, some major factual discrepancies can be noted. The Hindustan Times, states that there were “over 40 American’s hurt in blast” (www.hindustantimes.com, May 13th 2003) and the Sydney Morning Herald states “at least 50 American’s” (Sydney Morning Herald, May 13th, 2003) adds to the increasing unreliability of the news and also hints at American bias. The irony is that even though Indians were killed in the blast, The Hindu states “at least 44 Americans were among those injured in the blast” (The Hindu, May 13th, 2003) it does say a word about how many Indians were killed so it is clear that both local and international newspapers are susceptible to bias.

Alternatively, many of the news sources in Islamic cultures seem to be religious orientated. These Islamic states put forward a religious view by not just including their nationality but also their religion. Though not necessary, it also positions the reader to take on a stance depending on the individualТs nationality and more importantly, religion. The Hindu Times states: “They seemed to be the latest anti-Western attacks in the kingdom that is the birth place of Islam” (Hindu Times, May 13th 2003) and the “Еand a Saudi Islamist group believed to be May, 2003). This does position the reader to become more aware of the rebellion and take into account the human and structural casualties.

Furthermore, a few factual discrepancies were found. As stated earlier the ABC News says that there were “around twenty schools and other public buildings have been destroyed” (ABC News, 20th May, 2003) and Channel 7 describes, “Еthese school buildings were set on fire but it is not certain who was responsible” (ABC News, 20th May 2003). Channel 7 used only a few pictures of similar buildings being burnt and this does not account for the twenty or so that were supposedly set a light. Depending on the news channel the audience was watching it does indicate that schools were set a light but it does not reveal how many.

Furthermore, during both of those programs they said that they were unclear as to who set the fires. Even though it is a brief sentence it does cover the news for any speculation as to who set them. For all the news knows, it could have accidentally been set a light by the government. The news just doesn’t know, but they use it anyway to position the audience, regardless of the truth behind it.

It is clear that by analysing the three previous news articles that it proves that the supposed noble institution known as the news doe use, and more importantly doesn’t use, certain aspects about a particular event. They use clever and sometimes unusual discourse to position the audience to take a certain point of view. Also by the use of factual discrepancies that may exaggerate or soften the actual truth. close to bin Laden’s network” (Sydney Morning Herald, May 13th 2003) indicating not only religious bias but assumptions about actual facts, therefore this news article is not presenting fact, it is more of an opinion.

From the above graph it is clear the ABC News Radio and the Courier Mail has supplied the majority coverage along with the Courier Mail. Each paper is aimed at different target audiences so they will cover certain aspects that would appeal more to their target audience. This story once again would have had a small religious bias that would have influenced the how much or how little the media put in on a story.

Aceh Rebellion
Recently, the Aceh Rebellion has come to life because the Indonesian President Megawani Sukanoputri has declared martial law and launched a “shock and awe” attack against pro-independence rebels. It has been described as Indonesia’s largest military operation since 1975. Along with this recent news event it is clear that the news has once again used strong discourse and factual discrepancies that need closer attention to reveal their hidden meanings. These are used to position the audience to view the text in a certain way.

The Courier Mail’s headline reads, “Rebels say villager burnt alive” (Courier-Mail, p25 May 20th 2003), clearly indicates the seriousness of the event. It also positions the reader to believe that this did happen because if the honest newspaper said so, despite the fact that “Rebels say” that this happened is somewhat irrelevant when trying to position the reader. The Jakarta Post headline “Civilians Suffer Most in Ache” (www.jakartapost.com, 25th May 2003) also described the seriousness of the event by relating civilians with civilians (audience) and thus creates a sympathetic mood.

However, the ABC News launches right into the crux of the event by saying “The military has arrested 7 rebels and killed 5 others, a claim denied by pro-independent leaders” (ABC News, 20th May, 2003). It also goes on to say “Around twenty schools and other public buildings have been set on fire since the Marshall Law was declared”.

Analyzing the News & Current Affairs Sector of Media with a Critical, Political, Economy Approach

This essay introduces an approach to studying media, which deals with the interplay of economic, political, social and cultural life. The political economy approach we are outlining here is clearly critical and its focus will mainly comprise of the fundamental political and economic aspects of media in the news and current affairs sector. The historical development of current structures of ownership and production practices will also be exemplified in this essay, confining the main emphasis on four historical processes. A detailed argument of the advantages and disadvantages of analyzing media with a critical political economy approach will also be discussed in this essay. Definitions of terms and several substantiating examples will be included to support the arguments mentioned.

Golding and Murdock (1991) in their article draw several terms and concepts used in ‘critical political economy’. The detailed definition and explanation of the term points out that social relations and the exercise of power play an impacting role in shifting cultural perspective in society – observing how the making and taking of meaning in productions are shaped at every level of social relations. Analysing the nature and source of regulation limits in media is also an essential point to study the way meaning is made and re-made through the concrete activities of producers and consumers.

As highlighted by Golding and Murdock (1991), four historical processes mentioned are especially central to the critical political economy of culture – the growth of media, the extension of corporate reach, commodification and the changing role of state and government intervention. These processes will subsequently lead us to expand into the advantages and disadvantages of the critical political economy approach.

The growth of media as explained by Golding and Murdock speaks of how society views the media industries as the logical place to begin an analysis of contemporary culture hence resulting in an increase in media production. This process has in return brought about a rise in large corporations, which increasingly move towards privatization. Corporations are dominating the industry to a point of moulding media productions to their interests and strategies. One major setback that will arise from such domination is that producers and other related industries can exercise considerable control over the direction of cultural activity of society. And this does not only limit the range to newspapers and magazines, but further affects the cultural production in television and radio for updates in news and current affairs.

The extension of corporate reach intensifies a third process namely the commodification of cultural life. According to Golding and Murdock (1991), corporations in commodity production initially produced commodities that can be directly consumed – several examples would be newspapers, magazines or novels. However technology has led to further advancement in domestic communication – such as the radio, television, computers and the Internet. Hence cultural consumption now requires consumers to purchase the appropriate equipment or hardware as a condition of access. The effects that such a resultant had now rely more on the ability of consumers to pay in order for communicative activity to actually take place. A good example to illustrate this sort of dependence – before a person could tune in to the latest updates on current affairs or news at home, he or she would at least need to own the essential hardware. Golding and Murdock (1991) also pointed out that the higher a household’s income, the more probable that the household would own key pieces of equipment – like a telephone, a video recorder or a computer – consequentially, this brings about a greater choice in communicative activities.

This line of reasoning takes us to examine a fourth process whereby corporations face a heavy dose of political pressure particularly in the areas of news and current affairs. Examples that were drawn by Golding and Murdock (1991) related well publicized attacks on the ‘impartiality’ of news coverage to police seizures of film, or government bans on live interviews with members of political parties. Such attempts are undeniably to narrow public discourse on the part of capitalist economic systems, as they assume a greater role in managing communicative activity. The changing role of state and government intervention in accordance to Golding and Murdock (1991) refer to two main forms – the production regulation in the public interest to ensure a diversity of cultural production. And regulatory functions extending to both the structure of media industries and the range of permissible public expression, for example in the usage of obscenities, portraying racial hatred and threatening the national security.

Hence to draw the conclusion that only a ‘critical political economy’ approach can adequately explain how the media work today may be a biased viewpoint as several pros and cons may be drawn from this approach.

A research done by Chandler (2000) interprets mass media research as ‘culture industries’ in terms of their economic determination. According to his analysis, the economic base of the organizations in which they are produced primarily determines the contents of the media and the meanings carried by their messages. Hence commercial media organizations then cater to the needs of advertisers and produce audience-maximizing products for advertising revenue. While specific media institutions whose revenues are controlled by the dominant political institutions or by the state tend to reproduce interpretations which serve the interest of the ruling class. The media aspects of news and current affairs perform a crucial role in defining events globally and also in reinforcing a consensual viewpoint by elevating the public opinion. Chandler (2000) also stresses that the base and structure applied to the mass media is associated with issues of the ownership and control of the media.

The strengths of a critical political economy approach draws our attention to the issues of political and economic interest in the mass media and highlights social inequalities in media representations. As cited by Chandler (2000) in his analysis, ideological analysis helps us to distinguish reality offered in media text. The approach comparatively emphasizes the importance of social class in relation to both media ownership and audience interpretation of media texts, which remains an important factor in media analysis. Furthermore, it underlines the material conditions of media production and reception through the study of ownership and control of the media and the influence of ownership on its content.

Besides these factors, the critical political economy approach also challenges us to consider issues such as differential access and modes of interpretation, which are shaped by socio-economic groupings. Representations in the mass media (e.g. political coverage or social groups) often need to undergo analysis in order to reveal underlying ideologies as audience interpretations continue to be affected by such content. Because of the distribution of power in society, some versions of reality have more influence than others, hence leading to structured variations in audience responses as highlighted by Golding and Murdock (1991). This further expands us to another point brought up in their article on how the critical political economy approach allows us to trace relations between the financing and cultural production organization. Commodification as a concern in the critical political economy approach has help to establish a self-perpetuating advantage in the market, which would avoid gross imbalances of power and price. Because the virtue of the market is such that there is compliance to the price laws of supply and demand, there is therefore always automatic pressure to reduce any temporary imbalances.

Another advantage of this approach can be seen in government regulation on production and consumption of cultural representations. Because media content affects the construction of society’s identity, there is hence an emphasis on the vitality to preserve national identity and security. Consequently, this brings about changes in public discourse and representation which challenges us to realise the need for analyses in textual organisations.

However Chandler (2000) also expressed arguments against the strengths of the critical political economy approach. Although the approach employed empirical methods in particular that included close studies of specific texts on the analyses of media representations. One such limitation referred to the approach shunning away from how audiences and consumers use the mass media. In support of this limitation, Golding and Murdock (1991) similarly mention that critical economy seeks to relate variations in people’s responses to their overall location in the economic system.

Critical political economy takes this line of reasoning to media corporations being regarded as potential abuses of owner power thus dominating institutions in society. Reproductions of the media’s viewpoint of dominant institutions largely gravitate towards a central and most obvious perspective rather than one which provides alternative representations. According to Chandler (2000) in his analysis, political economy in the mass media has a tendency to avoid the unpopular and unconventional, and alternately to depict on the beliefs and ideology which are most favourable and most widely legitimated. One excellent example drawn by Chandler (2000) was the media portrayals of elections composing the power structure in liberal democracies – voting was then seen as an ideological practice that helps to sustain the myth of democracy and political equality. The impact of election coverage was thus conceived in terms of reinforcing political values that were widely shared in Western democracies and were actively endorsed by the education system, the principal political organizations and the apparatus of the state.

The limitation brought up by Lehman also suggested that the powerful dominance of media production corporations only satisfied the needs of a narrowly construed range of consumers which takes place at the expense of the needs of the majority of the population. In the analysis of the critical political economy approach, we have learnt that power lies in the hands of capitalists, which demand increasing financial returns. In searching for increasing levels of revenue, the needs of many that do not have power to monitor corporate effects on the local community have therefore been ignored. Here, Lehman’s analysis on the power structure can be extended to consider the effects such an approach has on culture. This is especially crucial in the news and current affairs area of media, as proprietors would likely use their property rights to restrict the flow of valuable information on which the vitality of democracy depended on. An important supporting example illustrated by Golding and Murdock (1991) portrayed evidence of the Bertelsmann company of Germany which had control of RCA records and Doubleday books having control over a major chain of newspapers and magazines. Therefore the minimising modes of dominion ranging from government regulation to privatised control is crucial in shaping audiences mindsets.

In conclusion, we have analysed the political and economic forces that shape the media industries, and the forms of regulation government production practices and media output. The focal point of argument in the approach of critical political economy in communications arrays the exercise of control over cultural production and distribution, limiting or liberating the public sphere. We have seen in this essay the liberating aspects and the limitations imposed on the news and current affairs sector of media. Useful insights and examples be it in the positive or negative sense have been gleaned to support the important processes encompassing critical political economy approach – extension of corporate reach, commodification and state or government intervention. Although a detailed analysis of pros and cons were covered, it still leaves us room to consider other cultural and historical impacts on how society thinks before we can claim to adequately explain how the media work today.

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